More than Mums: Why Everyone Needs a Work-Life Balance

Working mums seem to be at the centre of the work-life balance debate, whether they are hailed as feminist superwomen or victimised for their lack of a breadwinner partner. But is this mum-centred debate marginalising the corporate wellness needs of other women? According to Marie Claire, the focus on working mums is ‘the newest form of workplace discrimination’. Of course, working mums need as much support as possible in the workplace, but Marie Claire argues that a second class of childless women are carrying ‘an undue burden at the office, batting cleanup for their married-with-kids co-workers.’


Ayana Byrd, author of Hair Story, reports that 61% of childless women, aged 33 to 47, believe parents get more flexibility at work. Children were seen, by these women and their managers, to be the only extra-professional pursuit moral enough to justify working a flexible 40-hour week, with childless women assumed to be available at all times while parents lay claim to dinner time (children need structure), weekends (the football games), and Christmas (Santa’s for kids).


However, those privileges shouldn’t always be given to working mums. In fact, this is illegal and you need to stand up for yourself, whether you take it to your manager or HR. Liz Ryan, a Fortune 500 H.R. executive, comments ‘No one respects the people who are slaves to the job. They’re often setting themselves up for more work and fewer accolades. Build the muscle to say no. Men realise that it’s not about getting a gold star; women are raised to think that saying yes makes you a good girl.’


And what about men? While Marie Claire doesn’t ask whether single men similarly sacrifice their free time for office mums and dads, it does hint that women impose it upon themselves by leaning in so hard. Even their sources who were willing to say, in print, they’d like to work slightly less, only admitted to wanting more free time for self-improvement projects. So maybe one day you’ll be able to have more free time to go to the gym, spend time with your family, or taking a “religious studies class,” but it seems that if you, God forbid, want to go home at 5pm without giving a “virtuous” reason, that taboo may remain for a very long time.

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